Anger and advocacy!

Let’s be angry!

At times in today’s world, the danger is that we can feel a little numb, a little detached. Sometimes however, we can allow ourselves to feel- to hear another person’s story, and in our imagination to feel we are going through it with them, and to identify with their emotions. It could be listening to the person on the train, or a magazine article, some words from the family next door, or a person on the other side of the globe.

Some stories are about people who have overcome, who are settled and at peace, and we are thankful for these. Other people are in such pain and weariness, that it can be hard to listen. Just now, there seem to be so many stories of terror and loss-

The family in which some one has a disability, and whose support services have been cut because of the pandemic, people who have become more isolated and lost skills and confidence.

The prisoners, languishing in prison, although they have done nothing wrong – people like the Chinese Christian Gao Zhisheng, whose work as a human rights lawyer has resulted in him disappearing in 2017, and he has not been seen since.

And we think of the terrified in Afghanistan, as the Taliban reassert control, the cries of the vulnerable, of women and children fleeing from.rhe brutality and lawlessness of their rule.

How do we respond to these heartbreaking situations. Well maybe, just maybe, we should be angry! We should be angry that people with disabilities and mental health issues seem to be at the bottom of the pile in our society. We should be indignant that human rights lawyers, who courageously speak out for others, can disappear with so many people turning a blind eye. We should be furious that in so many lands, the rights of women and children are non existent.

To be healthy, we cannot focus on all these issues all the time. However to pretend they are not happening, is not the answer either.

As we listen to the cries of these individuals, we should be angry that they suffer so much, and so many do so little. But hopefully it is not the kind of anger that breaks dishes, but rather the kind of anger that we ask God to channel into a constructive energy for advocacy and action.

In Ephesians chapter 4 verse 26, it says: ” in your anger, do not sin.” We are allowed to be angry- it is what we do with it that matters. Jesus Himself was angry- about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, or the greed of the money changers in the temple. So he spoke out against that which was wrong.

In Proverbs 31:8-9 it says: ‘ Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute’. Part of our calling as Christians, as human beings, is to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, or those who are not being listened to.

When we are touched by what has happened to some one, and have become indignant, whether it is the plight of the homeless, the story of the woman who has been human trafficked, or the lonely person in a hospital bed, may we channel these feelings of sadness and frustration into something good, to lobby for funding, for advocacy, for change. It might only be the words of a prayer, or writing to our MP, or giving to a charity, but every little helps.

Gracious God, we remember the roar of Aslan in C S Lewis’s novels, conveying the power and majesty of God. You are the God of justice, and You long for justice and fairness. Yet on this earth so many suffer- trauma, ill treatment, sexual exploitation and brutality. Forgive us for the times we turn away. Lord Jesus, help us be angry when another human being is treated without dignity or respect. And may your holy spirit helps us channel that anger wisely, to pray, to give, to be advocates for those on trouble. Give us energy to do this, and to be courageous in seeking to make this a more just world, Amen.

It’s ok to slow down!

Appreciating slowness!

We seem to be pre programmed to rush and be busy. We accept it as the norm, and if you ask someone how they are, and they say they are not doing much, you tend to wonder what that might mean.

Well that was true before the pandemic! For key workers, their lives are still as busy as ever. For others, people are so restricted in not meeting people or going any where, that response ‘I’m not doing anything much’ has become more common. It is often said with a mournful face, for after living under so many restrictions for so long, there is a feeling of claustrophobia at the moment. As some one said on the phone the other day ‘ the days can be monotonous’.

A few years ago, I encountered a book ‘In praise of slow’ by Carl Honore. The author is pleading with people not to live such hectic, busy lives, and instead to slow down, to take your time and appreciate things more. He talks of things like slow eating, working less hard, and generally appreciating ‘ the wisdom of slowness’ a phrase from Miles Kundera.

This line of thinking is really very liberating, for it reminds us that actually slowing down for a while can be beneficial for body and soul. If we reframe lockdown, so instead of feeling like being in prison, it is a time to reflect, and to appreciate life more, then that would be a blessing. Then it can become a sacred time, to learn to enjoy nature, to re engage with art and literature, to be more creative, and to be content in our own company. This will give us a new outlook too, when the restrictions will begin to lift, and encourage a new balance between quiet and busy.

It is never as easy as that, of course, for we are experiencing a collective mourning, which can feel crushing -so many deaths, so much illness and trauma. We pray to use the quiet spaces to pray, and to give others a safe place to process and heal. It looks like this could take generations.

We remember the words from Ecclesiastices chapter 3 ‘ there is a time for everything under the sun.’ Instead of the temptation to rush into things, may we learn to be more contemplative, to take our time, to listen to God, before we take action. Even when restrictions lessen, we might well choose to live more gratitude filled lives, with more quiet moments. This could be a pivotal decision, to help us find a healthier rhythm for our lives.

Let us pray, Gracious Father, we are so grateful for this extraordinary planet to live on, for the beauty and inspiration all around us. Forgive us that at times we move so quickly, that we are oblivious to the breathtaking wonder of creation, art, music and literature. Forgive us that we don’t see the forgiveness and mercy of Jesus Christ, or take time to experience what it means to follow your teaching, and live in your love. Holy spirit, help us to take this opportunity to appreciate going more slowly, and learning to notice and cherish what is truly of value in life, to love and be loved and be a blessing to others, for Jesus’s sake, Amen